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Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson

Kolymsky Heights (1994)

by Lionel Davidson

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3721629,102 (3.68)17
  1. 00
    Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More intrigue at sub-zero temperatures
  2. 00
    Kim by Rudyard Kipling (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Both these books feature cunning, clever spies who speak several languages and can pass for several different nationalities - they are also both great adventures.

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This writer is said to be a master of the thriller genre. Kolymsky Heights is the only book of his that I have read so far and though I thought it was written and well plotted, it seemed to lack a clear storyline and sense of purpose. This is an odd comparison but it makes me think of the Jack Reacher novels where action takes pride of place over any particular meaning or purpose to the story. The problem solver and his skills are more interesting than the meaning of the problem.

In Kolmsky you have a very well-crafted Native American hero who is recruited by the CIA to undertake a dangerous and important mission to the Russia (kind of a novel plot line) to investigate some very bizzarre experiments the Russian's are conducting with ice-age archaeology and primates which may have important national security implications.

It's an exciting and fast faced story with engaging characters but in the end you are left wondering what the point was. Actors are always asking directors "what's my motivation ?" I think Davidson should have asked himself the same question: what do I want to say here ?

In the end the plot seemed a little contrived and only a device to hold together very good action sequences and well paced writing. Which is perfectly OK and many readers like well told action stories.

In fairness, I should day that there is a lot of interesting details about Siberia and especially about the indigenous people living under Russian rule. I did find this background detail quite interesting and you might also if you like stories involving tribal "first peoples".

If you like Reacher novels, you might well like Kolymsky Heights. He has written another novel that is set in the Holy Land (The Menorah Men) that I might try next so I think he is worth a look if you like action-thrillers. ( )
  blnq | Dec 27, 2016 |
A somewhat intriguing thriller with science fiction elements that makes this interesting but not now, unique reading. One would have to read it as a period piece, in fact an end of the Cold War sort of period piece, with the various limitations that this sets itself. At times fast paced, it's interesting and intriguing and I never lost interest but there was a sort of detachment that infects not only he main character but the reader as well. Interesting and at times, has points that any reader of adventure fiction would enjoy. ( )
  aadyer | Dec 17, 2016 |
When Philip Pullman announces on the cover that this is the best thriller he's ever read, you know that you are almost certainly going to be disappointed. The bar has been raised too high. It starts well enough. The strange discovery in the Siberian perma frost at the start of the novel is promising. But the eventual discovery of what has been going on at the top secret, isolated, virtually impregnable Russian scientific research station is somewhat underwhelming and of little interest to the author himself. What is far more important are all the extraordinary and detailed machinations by which the hero, Johnny Porter, manages to get to the research station and then the tense, extended chase section at the end where he attempts to get away.
Whilst admiring Lionel Davidson's brilliant evocation of the icy Siberian wastes, I was less impressed with all the detailed minutiae of Porter's life under cover and his general technical superman wizardry (I felt I knew so much about how a Bobick - a kind of Siberian jeep - was put together that I could build one myself). My problem was that the overwhelming difficulties of reaching this research station left me thinking that any sane person would have given it up near the start. And then, there is the fact that it takes 350 pages before you get to the final exciting attempt at escape while the Russian authorities close in by which time I was feeling too exhausted to care enough whether the hero lived or died. ( )
1 vote stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
Great story. A bit far fetched, but nevertheless, a cracking read. Shane about the 'harmonics' nonsense. ( )
  jvgravy | Feb 29, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312956614, Paperback)

Johnny Porter, a rebel with a gift for language and disguise, discovers a Russian scientific secret that could either be used to improve the world or destroy it. Reprint. NYT.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:56 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The hero is Johnny Porter, an Oxford-educated Canadian Indian who is an accomplished linguist and master of disguise. The CIA sends him to Russia to obtain information on a genetics program. He enrolls as a Korean deckhand on a ship in Japan, crosses Siberia as a truck driver--in which capacity he meets beautiful Dr. Tanya Komarov--picks up the information and in a hail of bullets dashes home across the Bering Straits. By the author of The Night of the Wenceslas.… (more)

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